Couple_Crisis_1208131Sexual addiction is a term that gets a lot of flack, but it does exist. It can be compared to problems like gambling, where the person impulsively acts without thinking of the consequences. But it is not 100% like gambling, because while we do not have a "gambling drive," we do have a "sex drive." In other words, healthy people have natural, hormonally and psychologically needs to have sexual activity. The question becomes, how and why does this need go into overdrive, making something natural and fun into something dark, and even scary?

Let's take a look at how problems develop.  Many people (mainly men, but sometimes women) want sex that's a bit dirty and wild, but they are afraid to ask for what they need.  They may hide their needs and take them underground, seeking pornography or illicit partners, or paying for sexual gratification.  Once they act out their sexual needs, they feel ashamed.  This shame leads them to feel bad.  What makes someone feel good if they feel bad?  Sex!  So around and around they go, developing a habit that is very rewarding and thus tough to kick.

Other factors also contribute.  People who work alone or whose partners work opposite shifts may become lonely or bored and use pornography to escape.  If single, they may have poor social skills and be unable to relate to a suitable partner.  They may be unable to communicate with their partner and let him or her know that they feel stifled with their sexual relationship, and have unmet sexual needs. 

There are many approaches to treating this problem, but what approach is best depends on the cause.  Obviously, if someone has poor social skills or cannot communicate, the treatment is different than if someone has offbeat sexual tastes that they want to indulge in.  Once the cause is identified, then a treatment plan can be created.  In our treatment offices, planning is co-created between client and therapist, so that there is a sense of teamwork toward making change.

People sometimes expect therapists to have magic answers.  (I have a wand in my office, but I often joke that they can no longer get parts to fix it.)  They want a formula for how to stop a behavior.  But behaviors that are very rewarding–behaviors leading to arousal and orgasm–are difficult to change.  Sexual energy needs to be directed in a healthy way.  New behaviors need to be developed.  It takes work to change ingrained habits; it doesn't just happen overnight.

If you think that you have an addition to sex and you want to change, then call.  If your partner has a problem, have them call.  Taking responsibility is often a critical step in admitting there is a problem.  There is help, but you have to reach out.  You have to make a commitment to turn your sexuality into something you feel good about and enjoy, instead of something to be hidden and ashamed of.